Taking minutes - additional information & question?

Subject: Taking minutes - additional information & question?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 9 Mar 2001 09:59:04 -0500

Carol Wall provides additional information and questions: <<So, here's my
follow-up question for those of you who see taking minutes as a source of
personal/professional power -- how do you make it empowering? It has to be
something beyond our personal attitude because the people who currently take
minutes don't feel empowered and can't wait to get rid of the task. I don't
think the writers are being "empowered" by management.>>

Given that you're having a job dumped on you that nobody else wants,
including you, it's difficult to see this as anything but annoying;
certainly, it's not empowering. Given that management has no intention of
letting you dodge the job, you have to adopt the adage that "when life gives
you lemons, make lemonade". As I suggested in my previous post, the trick is
to use the act of writing the minutes to learn what's going on _now_ and
what's coming up so you can plan your own future; you said that you've got
great access to the developers and already attend all the meetings, so the
trick is to keep an open mind while you record the minutes and figure out
how each thing you write down will affect you. Use that to create your own
to-do list after you leave the meeting: for example, "Meet with Geoff after
the meeting; he's having trouble with the Fubar user interface, and that
means he's going to be changing it several times between now and next
meeting, and since I'm documenting it, I'd better keep a closer eye on him
than usual."

A few folks have noted that it's hard to write minutes and still have time
to participate in the meeting. Sometimes it's just a matter of learning new
note-taking styles, such as referring to speakers by their initials rather
than trying to write down full names, learning what _not_ to record (e.g.,
don't write "progress to date = ok" --> only record places where progress is
behind schedule and thus worth noting), and asking questions whenever you
need clarification--and sometimes even when you don't need clarification,
but need to slow things down briefly (not after each speech) so you can get
caught up on your notes. And come up with your own form of shorthand. Grad
school survival tactics! <g>

Another useful tactic: You mentioned that there are three of you, so divide
up the work. Set yourself the task of recording the pearls of wisdom uttered
by the Team Leader and Developer A, get your first colleague to record
information from developers B and C, and the third colleague to record
developers D and E. Then consolidate your notes afterwards. "Many hands
makes light work!"

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"User's advocate" online monthly at

"How are SF writers like technical writers? Well, we both write about the
things we imagine will happen in the future!"--Sue Gallagher


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